What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Sydney? The Opera House? Surfers on Bondi? Koalas and kangaroos? What about secret graveyards at the bottom of the harbour and sword-wielding politicians? Australia’s most famous city is a melting pot of the strange and shocking, bizarre and bonkers. Don’t believe us? Just read on…
A chequered history
Underneath the glitzy and glamorous façade of modern-day Sydney lies a surprisingly dark backstory. Look out at the harbour and you’ll see countless boats criss-crossing the fabled stretch of water. In fact, the city’s public ferries carry more than 14 million passengers every year but some of the first to see it by sea were the convicts from England back in 1788. Their arrival the start of one of Australia’s most controversial and darkest chapters.
What Lies Beneath
Since the big British invasion, Sydney itself has only ever come under attack once – in 1942, during World War II. At this time, a small fleet of Japanese submarines raided the harbour. The majority of attacking subs were repelled by the Allies, but one sunk and remains a Japanese war grave beneath the city’s waters even today. In 2006, it was discovered by scuba divers and has since been declared a protected historical site.
Cut to the chase
The year 1932 was a big one for Sydney. It saw the grand opening of Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge but the event was hijacked by a right-wing Member of Parliament wielding a sword on horseback. Crowds gathered to witness the ceremonial ribbon-cutting were aghast when this uninvited guest galloped in, slashing the ribbon himself before the scissor-ready dignitaries had chance.
An overpriced Opera House
But the bridge - affectionately known as ‘The Coathanger’ - isn’t the only landmark in the city with peculiar origins. Sydney’s instantly-recognisable Opera House was initially planned to make its debut in the 1960s. But the project proved to be an architectural nightmare and ran a shocking 1,357% over budget, and was not accessible to the public until 1973 - a full decade behind schedule. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the building actually cost A$102 million to erect, in contrast to the estimated and proposed budget of just A$7 million. Whoops!
An apple a day...
Sydney is no stranger to unusual stories about food, either. The tasty and tangy Granny Smith Apple was born in Sydney in the 19th century and named after local gardener Maria Ann Smith, who had a weird habit of throwing Tasmanian-grown crab apple cores out of her window. Interestingly, in the suburb of Eastwood where she once lived, the story is celebrated as part of an annual Granny Smith Festival. On top of this, the city’s Italian quarter, Leichhardt, was named in the Guinness Book of Records in 2008 for producing the longest slice of pizza, which spanned an incredible 221 metres.
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Image: Walkerssk from Pixabay